It probably wouldn’t be too far from the truth to suggest that, for many of us, the first contact we have with traditional folk music comes via the sea. There can’t be many Brits that don’t know at least the first verse of “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor” (Roud 322), after all, and some of our biggest and best singalongs started life in the sagging belly of an overloaded ship.
In last week’s blog post (‘John Hobbs‘) I wrote a little about the life-and-death decisions that must be made around singing in your own regional accent. Any conclusions I came to leapt eagerly from the window with this week’s song: ‘I Can’t Find Brummagem’. On the surface, it’s such a triffle that it’s hard not to ramp up the Brummie-ness, but as with many of these old songs, doing so feels a little like you’re taking from some of its undeniable dignity. Deliberations! Who’d be a folk singer?
What a weird little song this is, and quite startling in subject matter, too. As is the wont of many people developing an interest in traditional folk songs, I recently began investigating the songs from the area I come from – Birmingham and the surrounding West Midlands. Hardly a glamorous place in times gone by, the songs that really leap out out of the archives tend to be unrelentingly grim, or at the very least clothed in the thin veil of black humour.
This article is about obsession. In some ways, it could serve as a warning: beware, young folk adventurers, for it may all end like this. Nick Hart may have made one of the finest folk albums in recent years, but it clearly came at a cost. This is a man who is kept awake at night by questions concerning the appropriate use of 5/4 metres; a man whose existential crises tend to whirl around the right and wrong way to accompany traditional English song. He’s a proper trad folk fanatic –so, in chatting with him, I felt I’d met a […]
On a pleasant autumn day in late 2017, I found myself kicking about in the fallen leaves outside Cecil Sharp House, killing a little time before I was due to meet the chief executive and artistic director (all one role) of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), Katy Spicer.
There’s a growing sense that 2018 may be the Year of Lucy Farrell – the year that the perennial band-member and session musician steps out from the sidelights and takes centre stage. If that’s the case, it has been some time in coming. Lucy has been a very sturdy cog in the traditional folk machine for a good while, notably as a member of the Johnny Kearney & Lucy Farrell duo, The Emily Portman Trio, The Coracle Band, Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band, and the award-winning Furrow Collective. Her viola, vocal and saw (yes, saw) skills are in great demand, which […]
There’s an understandable worry in the traditional folk world that there may not be enough enthusiasts among the younger generation to take the baton and keep things going. The generation that lived through the 50s and 60s Revival appears to have had folk lovers a-plenty, but despite specialist university courses at places like Sheffield and Newcastle, the generation currently in their 20s and 30s feels sparsely populated by comparison.
Meet Jack Rutter: folk singer, multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire, and – as you’ll see – man who frets over things like ‘best before’ dates. I mention this point up front because I think it might give you a sense of who you’re going to read about – a gentle, humble, loveable fellow that I had the pleasure of hosting when he played at Whitchurch Folk Club in November.
“I’ve just heard this song,” I tell my husband. “You have to listen to it.” He looks at the track listing. “I saw them do this live at Normafest.” He shakes his head, exhales slowly and makes the kind of face that tells of someone who’s still coming to terms with a deeply profound experience. “Wow”. He trails off and leaves the room.
Damn it, Nick Hart. Here’s me thinking I’ve heard the best albums of the year already, and then you sneak into my inbox and threaten to blow the competition away. Give us fair warning next time, would you? Spread your name far and wide – people will listen! – and approach your musical career with less humility. You have been told.